Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Which Cult Do You Belong To?

Q. "Aren't you Mormons part of a cult?"

A. "Sure we are, just like you Lutherans/Catholics/Baptists/etc."

Given that a standard dictionary definition of a cult is "a system or community of religious worship and ritual," yeah, I figure my fellow Baptists qualify. Of course, there are other dictionary definitions, such as "a religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false." Since a majority of the world is likely to disagree with my Lutheran friends (and with all of us Christians, as a matter of fact), I guess they're in, too.

Of course, those who use the word "cult" aren't trying to inform others that we are a religious organization. Informing has nothing to do with their ends - it's all about spooking people with the eerie nuances of the word. And those in the battle against "cults" work hard to come up with special definitions of the word to nail their targets, be they Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Roman Catholics, or martial arts fans. According to these special definitions, for examples, cults may be any group with one or more features like claiming to have inspired leaders, teaching new ways and laws that are not already accepted in current society, asking sacrifices of money and time from their people, claiming to have new revelations or scripture, etc. What I find so interesting about nearly all of these special definitions aimed at labeling Mormons as "cultists" is that these definitions also condemn Jesus Christ and the early Christians. They were generally viewed as false and extremist, claimed to have an inspired leader and new revelations, taught new ways, demanded much of their members, introduced new scripture - you name, those early Christians and their leader were cultists to the max, just like members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. OK, so I admit it: I belong to a cult. But it's nice to be in such good company!

So, what cult do you belong to? Interested in a restored one? We have openings!

I discuss the issue of cults in more detail on my Mormon Answers page about cults and Mormonism.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment "good company". Perhaps that's true in a non-Utah setting, but here in Utah...

Yes there are a lot of good Mormons here in Utah, but there are also a lot of bad apples (both active and inactive).

Ian said...

Yes, I have tried to point that out to a number of people, and they get all mad. That's why they old fall back definition of a cult is that cults "don't beleive in the trinity".

That catches the LDS, the JW's and a couple of others. So, by that definition I guess we are a cult too.

Congratulations.

AlexG said...

If you point out that the definition of the nicean trinity, i.e., three gods in one person, no parts or passions, etc. was made after the Bible was 'completed' and that it would sound very strange to the first christians in Antioch, people get even madder. If the believe of the Trinity makes LDS a cult, the same could be said of the first Christians.

I guess that the real definition of cult is 'religion that is different than mine and I do not want to hear anything about'.

Anon @8:26pm: You find 'bad apples' in Utah and elsewere (churchgoers and else). I guess that the 'good company' could be refered to the first Christians which would be labeled 'cultist' by most modern definitions.

Bookslinger said...

Alexg: The "without parts or passions" is in the Athanasian creed, not the Nicene creed.

The Nicene is pretty much what we believe. The only part of the Nicene creed where we vary is where it says Jesus Christ "being of one substance with the Father." And you could possibly interpret that or nuance it to agree with us anyway.

The stuff in the Apostles Creed also mirrors what we believe.

Now you could nit-pick both the Nicene and Apostles Creed where it says the Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit, but that is pretty much what the New Testament says. Any statements by past prophets to the contrary are not official doctrine.

It's the Athanasian creed that has the incomprehensible gobbledy-gook nonsense.

To compare those creeds, visit this page.

David J said...

Jeff,

Great post. I engage counter-cultists a lot and for all their sword-weilding "defenders of the faith" facade, I boiled the definition of the word down to two things (for them):

1. Cult = not the majority, you're weird, and I don't like your religion,

2. the word is used as an invitation to mud-slinging. Every time, without fail.

The press avoids this word, people with any self-respect avoid this word, and intellectuals who use it generally have serious validation issues, which, if explored deeply, I submit would reveal that the individual is unsure about his own system of belief, and is therefore lashing out at others to cover it up.

Just my two Lincolns.

David J said...

Jesus Christ "being of one substance with the Father." And you could possibly interpret that or nuance it to agree with us anyway.

Bookslinger, indeed you are correct. The word "substance" in its Latin original, was utilized solely as a legal term, not a metaphysical one. The use of the word was for mostly knocking down Valentinian gnosticism, which, if you explore, reveals some very heretical stuff, even for cultists like us. The word ought to be understood as a unified substance of power and dominion (legal terms). Most people haven't had the training to know that the metaphysical is not really implied (explicitly) in the term. All this is hammered out quite well in most standard Christian history textbooks (Just Gonzalez Story of Christianity is the one I used in grad school).

David J said...

It's the Athanasian creed that has the incomprehensible gobbledy-gook nonsense.

You're funny. Actually, for me, Chalcedon is the real mind-bender. Terribly illogical and paradoxical. It still baffles theologians to this day.

Ian said...

Here is an amusing thing that I heard in a discussion forum. It was posted by a person with the login of Hitchiker (does this person post here?)

Jesus said, “Whom do men say that I am?”

And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.”

And Jesus answered and said, “But whom do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said, “Thou art one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty; And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord. Thou art perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching thy Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching thy manhood. Who, although God and man, yet thou art not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God. One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.”

And Jesus said unto him, "What?"

matejoh said...

That was funniest thing I've read in a long time. Thanks. I live in Georgia, have been a member The Church all my life and am Constantly surprised by people telling me that I'm a cultist for believing that Christ still lives and has a body and that there are living prophets in our time. But the look of utter confusion on some people's faces is sad when I describe how we view the Godhead in terms of the a Presidency; there are seperate persons connected by the same purpose and they each have the authority to speak for and represent eachother. Anyway, thanks for comment, Jeff.